Soon, browse internet on board flights in India!
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is all set to approve in-flight connectivity (IFC) at its next meeting on May 1, sources said. "We will initially allow data services, but slowly get into voice services also," an official said, confirming DoT had got approvals from all relevant departments. Once the DoT gives its nod, passengers will be able to enjoy internet while in the air.
IFC can be of two kinds, depending on available technology: internet connectivity through Wi-Fi, and mobile communication services on board aircraft. Wi-Fi is the more commonly available technology. A 2016 survey by British satellite telecom company Inmarsat found that 92% passengers want in-flight broadband. It also revealed as many as 83% passengers choose airlines on the basis of internet availability.
Laying down guidelines for IFC in India, the TRAI had suggested the minimum height for MCA services will be 3,000 meters so it's compatible with terrestrial networks. A separate "IFC service provider" category will be created, not limited to Indian entities. They can use either INSAT systems or foreign satellites. Initially, an annual license fee of Re 1 will be levied on service providers.
Rates will have to be decided based on several factors, including demand, type of device, and charges airlines will have to pay to service providers. Earlier this year, reports said 30 minutes of use can cost up to Rs. 500. NewsX said even these speculated rates were expected to rise further. Such high costs may force low-cost carriers to give up the option.
Frequent travelers claim except a few business class flyers, takers for IFC even on international routes are low. According to Air Passengers Association of India president DS Reddy, "IFC may be useful on longhaul flights, but I've hardly seen anyone use it on international routes." If passengers refrain from using IFC due to its excessively high costs, airlines might have to rethink their strategy.
According to British satellites telecom company Inmarsat, more than half of the aircraft globally will be equipped with internet within the next six years. Honeywell Aerospace pegs the current global market for connected aircraft at $7 billion.